Screen Time: How Much Is Too Much?

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By Michelle Dell’Aquila

TVs, tablets, phones, and computers are a staple in many households and schools use technology to provide a better education. But how much screen time is too much for a child?

Children, especially young children, are susceptible to the negative effects of too much screen time.

Technology is used often as a babysitter. It allows children to become immersed in a TV show or game. While many parents appreciate the quiet time, they usually agree that their children are better off participating in activities that don’t involve tech.

If young children spend hours staring at a screen, the effects can go beyond physical problems (poor posture, lack of muscle definition and damage to eyesight). Cognitive side effects are among the top-ranked reasons as to why screen time should be avoided with young children. Tech may help children solve problems, but too much screen time can result in underdeveloped academic and social skills, discipline, and self-confidence.

Interactive play outside, with other children, is one of the most beneficial (and free!) learning tools available. There, they can learn how to interact with other kids, learn to communicate, problem solve, and boost their confidence as they experience their likes and wants in free play.

How much is too much? Infants and very young children should have little to no screen time, based on the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Infant screen time should be as minimal as possible. At such a young age, babies need to learn how to move, grasp items, recognize faces, and become vocal. Screen time can stifle babies’ progress, as they learn and grow at a rapid pace at this age.

School-aged children can spend anywhere from two to more than six hours per day experiencing tech and screen time at school and home. The limits for screen time as children mature are less strict, especially since they are exposed to it in almost every aspect of their lives. A key factor to remember when it comes to screen time is the quality of the content.

Is it an educational game or program? Will it teach the alphabet, how to read, or different numbers or words? These types of content can support a child’s education.

Parents should set limits at an early age and be responsible for the amount of screen time their child receives. As children mature, parents can make sure their interactions are limited and educational.

Michelle Dell’Aquila, M.A. is a licensed child therapist and director of Child Development Advice, an educational consulting agency.

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